This is all we’re going to talk about today because, in this football bye week, it’s all anyone else seems to be interested in discussing. You know what happens tonight. MountaineerÂ Madness officially christens the 2007-08 season and West Virginia’s basketball team takes the the court again after another successful postseason appearance.
These Mountaineers have lived a good life in recent years. In the past four seasons, they are 78-51. They’ve played into the NCAA Tournament twice and for the NIT championship another time. They’ve had all-conference players and top-notch recruits, a big-time center and some terrific 3-point shooters. There is an added intrigue to them this season because they will play a different way then they have in the past as they attempt to press more on defense and push more on offense.
Then there is the obvious theme in that tonight they welcome back one of the program’s all-time greats.
And to think, the men’s team has been has been pretty good in the meantime, because we are, of course, talking about the women’s team.
If this caught you by surprise, Coach Mike Carey noticed. How could he not when his teamÂ had an average attendance of 1,013 in 14 home games last season — seriously 806 in the Coliseum for No. 5 Connecticut? Yet the women’s team has been, like the men’s team,Â a formidable outfit lately.
2004: 21-11, first NCAA Tournament apperance since 1992
2005: 21-13, lost in WNIT championship
2006: 15-16, young team lost a bunch of close games (nine by six points or fewer), including a 50-44 loss to UConn in the the Big East Tournament final
2007: 21-11, beat Xavier in NCAA Tournament’s first round, lost to Final Four’s LSU, 49-43
WVU is already ranked this preseason for the first time ever. All five starters and the top five scorers are back, led by first-team all-Big East center Olayinka Sanni and second-team guard LaQuita Owens, one of the top shooters in the country. Meg Bulger, first-team in 2005 and second-team in 2006, when her season was cut short by the first of two knee injuries, returns as well after missing all of last season. Add to that a nationally ranked recruiting class and this team could get some attention Carey feels is overdue.
“We played for the championship of the NIT and everyone acted like it wasn’t a big deal. (The men) won the NIT last year and it was the greatest thing ever. We’ve played in the NCAA Tournament two out of the last four years and we’ve beaten some pretty good teams. I don’t know what else we have to do to prove ourselves to get people behind us.”
If nothing else, the University has tried to change the culture by scheduling five doubleheaders with the men’s team — two in nonconference play, three in Big East play, not to mention the Capital Classic against Marshall in the Charleston Civic Center.
In all the doubleheaders, the women play before the men, meaning there’s a chance the women could see a bump in attendance.
“At least in the second half of the games we’ll get a good turnout,” Carey joked…probably. “We’re going to have a good basketball team, so I hope people come out and can appreciate that. We’re going to be an exciting team. We’re going to press and get up and down, so I hope people come out and support the team because they deserve the support.”